Confession time, folks:
I was a Warhammer nerd.
I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and my painting skills left a lot to be desired (I was 12, and could barely write legibly, not sure what people were expecting), but hey, I’ve painted an Ork or two in my time. It was pretty rad.
Sadly, younger, unemployed me couldn’t really afford the upkeep, and slightly older me had a college education to have a meltdown over, so my days of being a general for an army of plastic tat fell entirely to the wayside. But the Warhammer universe (specifically, Warhammer 40,000) is still a universe I’ve maintained a somewhat more casual interest in.
Which brings us to today’s review of Space Hulk: Deathwing. There. I’ve segued out of a Livejournal post into a games review. How good am I?!
In Space Hulk: Deathwing, you are a Space Marine*, one of the Imperium’s finest. Alongside other Space Marines*, you’re sent on a series of missions to stop the Tyranids threatening the very fabric of life as the 41st Millenium knows it. I’m not actually sure what that consists of, actually. There’s not exactly Black Library novels written from the perspective of Joe Everyguy: Imperial Tradie. Are there Imperium-approved Starbucks’ dotted around the place or something? Is there a bunch of Imperial Guard having a potluck? Nerds nerdier than me, help me out here.
Anyway you’re in a squad of Space Marine* Terminators and you kill aliens. It’s essentially the plot of every sci-fi game, with extra religion thrown in (the Imperium is weird, guys.)
Despite the relatively niche set-dressing, there’s not a huge amount of lore you need to come to grips with to ‘get’ Deathwing. There’s plenty here for existing Warhammer/Games Workshop fans to appreciate, but it doesn’t get so caught up in it’s own bullshit that it alienates newcomers or casual fans.
Every Terminator configuration has its own role to play, and missions are dotted with various tasks to complete when you’re not busy being swarmed by Genestealers. It feels a lot more like the Space Hulk games of old than Games Workshop’s other outings over the years (or even my initial comparison to Left 4 Dead), where you need a good balance of strategy, wits, and co-operation to get past the opening title screen.
Player customization is pretty decent, with different weapon loadouts, armour accessories and powers being available to peruse. Everything feels right at home and lifted straight out of the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Deathwing takes the whole “you’re a Space Marine* in a big fuck-off suit of armour” pretty seriously, too. When walking around and navigating the mission area, the armour you’re encased in feels like there’s a definite amount of heft to it, which adds to the immersion of the game.
Graphically, it looks like a Warhammer 40,000 game should. The mission areas leak that sort of grimdark atmosphere you’d expect from the franchise. While it’s not exactly a looker, it’s pretty in its own Warhammer-y way.
Controls are fairly straightforward, with some change-ups depending on your class. I was walking around, shooting and being mercilessly slaughtered within 30 minutes.
Speaking of being mercilessly slaughtered, this game is freaking hard. Deathwing relies heavily on squad-based combat and communication. A small misstep or running off and doing your own thing will inevitably lead to disaster and chaos, and having a good balance of player classes will assist in not being turned into a fine paste on the wall somewhere. Much like being a sexual deviant, this game is a million times better with company to share your weird kinks with.
If you’re like me on a lonely Sunday night and having fun solo (sense of shame and crying afterwards optional), there’s a single-player campaign which works well enough. Commands are issued to your AI squad-mates via a radial menu, activated by the space bar. Aside from a few times where I sent my fellow Space Marines* off somewhere and forgot to tell them to follow me again, there really wasn’t many issues.
What brings Deathwing down a few points is from a technical standpoint, it’s a little bit of a mess. Even though anything game-breaking is pretty minimal, there were a few times where my game locked up, sending my poor Space Marine* careening down a hallway into a horde of Tyranids. The enemy AI is at times fairly rudimentary, ranging from them either hiding behind cover and shooting, or just running straight at you. At it’s worst, you’ll find a bunch of Genestealer hybrids bunched up in a corridor.
Oh man, the corridors. There’s not a hell of a lot of space with you and your fellow Space Marines* stomping about the joint shooting things. While this does make for an engrossing, claustrophobic experience, there’s at times barely enough room for a golden retriever, let alone a squad of heavily armed bipeds. Expect a few accidental friendly fire moments or Abbott and Costello routines during gameplay.
Steam Workshop integration or some sort of editing tools would have been a huge plus. Even just a level editor akin to Doom 2016’s SnapMap feature. It’s a shame this was omitted.
Worse still, support and updates from the devs seem to be the bare minimum to keep it from crashing. With just a bit more TLC from the developers, this game would be up there with other multiplayer-focused games.
Overall, Deathwing is a good outing. Just be prepared for some pretty heavy-handed difficulty and technical missteps.
ARBITRARY NUMBERED RATING: 6 .5 Cease and Desists for use of the term “Space Marine” out of 10.
* ‘Space Marine’ is owned by Games Workshop. Any usage of the word ‘Space Marine’ is under an exclusive license between Rukusan Inc. and Games Workshop. Please do not use the term ‘Space Marine’ without acknowledging the traditional owners of the term, Games Workshop. In the grim darkness of the far future, Space Marine is owned by Games Workshop.